Ugh. Sick. I’ve taken a sick day from work and spent most of the day in bed. Thank goodness for nasal decongestants. At least it’s been a rainy inside sort of weekend. although Tom has managed a couple of day hikes with our guests while I slept and hid from the weather. Lots of down time means time to gather together a few loose ends over the last week.
Bliss is a place with plenty of Kleenex and cold meds
I finished the book by Eric Weiner, The Geography of Bliss. In the past few days, holed up in this house with a rapidly disappearing supply of Kleenex, I’ve managed to get a bunch of reading in. I went from the Netherlands, where some of the leading happiness research is being done, to Switzerland and Bhutan with it’s National Happiness Index, to Qatar where money doesn’t buy happiness – or at least not to casual visitors to Qatar. Iceland was interesting – Weiner describes it as a smallish sort of renaissance atmosphere where the winter darkness isn’t a deterrent to collaboration, creativity and artistry – where people move easily from one profession to another and everyone writes poetry. Moldova is statistically one of the least happy places in the world, poor and hopelessly helpless. Thailand is laid back and happy. Great Britain had a TV show where Happiness Experts tried (successfully) to change the level of happiness of some residents in the city of Slough. India is a study in contradictions.
Weiner summarizes the revelations on bliss in the Epilogue: “Money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important. So are friends. Envy is toxic. So is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude,” and “It’s not the elements that matter so much as how they’re arranged and in which proportions.”
I thought that this book was going to provide some Answers, but really for someone like me who is happy and therefore doesn’t think too much about it, the Geography/travelogue part was ultimately much more interesting than the Bliss part.
I caught the cold, I think, on my trip last weekend to the Bay Area for TwtrCon – a conference just about Twitter. I’ve been feeling a little funky and headachy ever since, but not really bed-ridden until this weekend.
TwtrCon was wonderfully interesting though. I get a lot of people asking me to explain Twitter – people who have heard all the buzz, maybe signed up for an account, and ultimately just don’t/didn’t get it. I wonder about the statistics that we all hear about how Twitter is expanding as a platform, and then if those numbers are just artificially high because of all the abandoned or semi-abandoned accounts floating around out there.
Tom has written down a bunch of his thoughts about Twitter – how he uses it and ways that it can be used. I keep thinking that maybe I will too, someday. Not today.
I got a bunch of wonderful ideas about Twitter from TwtrCon, and learned about some of the many interesting tools that people are developing as a way to keep score – figure out whether you are using the platform in a way that helps and influences people. That’s important from a corporate perspective. From a personal perspective, for my own Twitter account, I’m not sure it matters much to me.
I also really liked TwtrCon just as a conference. It was relatively small – attendance was sold out at 200 attendees, and there was only one session going on at a time, which meant that instead of scurrying between rooms and topics, I could set up my computer, relax, and enjoy the presentations.
During lunch the organizers did something that I’ve never seen at a conference before. There was a white-board set up near the registration table where people could propose and offer to moderate a topic for a lunch table discussion. I sat down at the Analytics table. Eric Pratum from Spring Creek Group moderated – sparking some interesting conversation with a few well-placed questions, and I had the good fortune of sitting down next to Christopher Peri, of PeriVision, who is coming up with some interesting ways in measuring the quality rather than the quantity of Twitter followers. Great stuff. After the sessions ended, I also had an interesting conversation with Shanan from TiVo – she said that her biggest take-away from the conference was that we are all still experimenting and that no one has THE answer for how to use Twitter just yet.
It’s a versatile tool – and like happiness, I suspect that the summary is that it’s “not the elements that matter so much as how they are arranged and in which proportions.”
I nice consequence of my time in the Bay Area was getting to spend time with my bro and his girlfriend in San Jose. They generously allowed me to crash out on their floor as a cost-saving measure. AH and I are different in a lot of ways, but I always find that he has interesting things going on in his life. Rockin’ out to Rock Band was fun too – an addition started at my other brother’s house over the holidays. AH figured out how to set it up so that you can’t fail out, and I had a wonderful time missing notes and eliciting boos from the fictional digital audience. I guess it’s a little like my current approach to the piano. I’m most interested in stuff that is much too hard for me.
Audio Books – Mrs. Kimble
In preparation for the solo drive to the Bay and back last weekend, Tom downloaded a few audio books for me. As it turns out, the drive there and back is nearly an audio book long, and listening to Mrs. Kimble
by Jennifer Haigh was a great way to speed through the miles.
Mrs. Kimble is about three different women who are all married at one point or another to the same Mr. Kimble. There’s Bertie, the first wife, the alcoholic mother of Charlie and Jody. Joan, the former reporter who is fighting breast cancer, and finally Dinah, the tennis player who blossoms from a self-conscious girl with a birthmark on her face, into a strong, beautiful woman.
Ken Kimble reminds me a bit of the protagonist in Sommerset Maughm’s book, The Moon and Sixpence, Charles Strickland, except without out the genius for artwork. The two characters share that peculiar lack of interest in people and the consequences of their actions on others. It’s amazing that Haigh was able to create this character, Ken, to be so repulsive, and yet understandably attractive at the same time.
The women in the book are interesting too. They are so different from each other – and so different in their responses to his self-centeredness. While the book didn’t blow me over in amazement, it will probably generate some good conversation at Book Club.
Envelopes and other things I’ve saved
This post is starting to remind me of something that a good college friend once told me. He admonished me for saving up all my news and sending him one long letter instead of several shorter ones. He told me, that it’s really all about the envelopes. The thrill of receiving mail comes by the envelope, by opening the mail box and finding something personal in there. The number of pages in that envelope was secondary, and he encouraged me to write less, but more often.
It seems to be a character flaw that I haven’t corrected even after all these years.
Other things I’ve wanted to write down, and just haven’t gotten around to include:
Taking pictures for Community Safety Day and the interesting conversations that I had. The new backpacking gear that Tom and I have accumulated and our plans for taking it out for a test spin. Buying a guest book and the process of turning our house into a vacation rental property. Twitter. Somewhat sheepishly following Neil Gaiman and other celebrities on Twitter. Being free, my renewed interest in Michel Foucault, and Tom’s story of meeting the great philosopher in person. Google Voice, Google Wave, and switching the default search engine on my search bar to Bing. Climbing conversations and visits from friends… and more.
I should probably start trying to set aside time to write these down on a daily basis again. I enjoyed the process, and I miss it, and I seem to be accumulating ideas. That doesn’t even count the various little interesting things I find on a daily basis on the internet. It’s not even like I’m saving stamps or envelopes.